MOUNT VERNON — South Main Plaza officially opened to the public Tuesday, according to Mount Vernon Nazarene University President Dr. Henry W. Spaulding II.
The reimagined gathering place next to MVNU’s Hunter Hull and Buchwald Center, on the corner of South Main and West Gambier streets, is home to a fountain adorned by painted cast aluminum sculptures that currently include 18 dogs. It is expected the plaza will be part of the new vitality and energy in a livable, walkable downtown community.
The space has been decorated for Christmas for guests to enjoy during the Christmas Festival, Dec. 6-8, and throughout the winter.
“We invite the community to come and enjoy the fountain and engage in conversation in this new gathering space,” said Spaulding. “We especially hope that families and children take advantage of South Main Plaza.”
Seating, fountain tiles, a pony and apple, a cat and a pair of birds will be installed and water will be turned on in the spring to bring the full vision of the space to life. A dedication and ribbon cutting will take place at that time.
The project, fully funded through a grant from The Ariel Foundation, is the brainchild of Gambier resident Phil Samuell. Phil and his wife Mary, visited Berczy Park in Toronto to see a similar fountain that inspired Phil’s desire to honor man’s best friend in Mount Vernon.
The South Main Plaza fountain was designed by Claude Cormier + Associés, who also designed the Berczy Park fountain. Cormier’s visit to downtown Mount Vernon helped him conceptualize a new functionality for the MVNU property.
“This time of year makes us pause to think about all of the people we are thankful to have in our lives, our family, friends and great community partners,” said Jen Odenweller, executive director of The Ariel Foundation. “We are grateful that Phil Samuell was so inspired by his fountain experience in Toronto that he brought our community together to create this new, special place in the heart of our downtown. Unique opportunities like this make for interesting threads in Mount Vernon’s social fabric.”
Various donation opportunities are available including sponsoring one of the sculptures or a bench, or celebrating the life of a four-legged family member on the plaza’s donor wall. Those interested in being a part of the project may do so by visiting www.mvnu.edu/give and designating the gift to “South Main Plaza” or contacting Justin Nowicki, MVNU Director of Development at 740-397-9000, ext. 4302. Donations to the project will establish an endowment at the Knox County Foundation to cover future maintenance of the Plaza. The first $50,000 in donations to the endowment will be matched dollar-for-dollar.